Review: York Late Music: Carmen Troncoso; Unitarian Chapel, York, June 2

THE University of York's music department continues to be a magnet for students from around the world, much to the benefit of this city.

A recent recruit is the Chilean magician of the recorder, Carmen Troncoso, who showed off the instrument in its many shapes and sizes, including an electroacoustic version.

The recorder has come a long way since it first appeared in the household accounts of the Earl of Derby before he became Henry IV. It has shed its genteel image and become surprisingly virile.

Troncoso’s motto here was Upwards. She demonstrated it in Roger Marsh’s Coppel (a case for four or six recorders), where she began with the low-voiced basset recorder, progressing up to the tiny sopranino. The music began mysteriously, curving up to trills at the top, inspired by stanzas from a Chilean poem.

Jia Chai’s When The Spring Breeze Enters, enjoying its premiere, was constantly intriguing as it reflected flowers falling in a spring wind. Gentle counterpoint from electronics gave depth to some breathy, innovative techniques.

Desmond Clarke’s Recordari ingeniously combined the recorder of history with the latest instruments. Ornamented snippets of Florentine song from the 12th and 13th centuries were interleaved with avant-garde sounds against a backcloth of electronics, giving a sense of an historical continuum.

An electroacoustic Paetzold basset recorder featured in two lively premieres by Carlos Zamora, Troncoso’s shoulder movements reflecting the music’s inherent rhythms. She had truly proved that the ancient recorder has been born again.

Martin Dreyer